Full Swing: Half Empty? A Contrarian View
With the February debut of the behind-the-ropes documentary Full Swing, the golf industry prayed that the Netflix series would do for the game what Drive to Survive accomplished for F1 racing: increased interest and viewership in a sport beloved by geeks but mostly ignored by the masses.
Chances are that if you live and breathe golf, you’ll find it easy to enjoy the eight episodes of Full Swing, with its backstage lens trained on both the tedium and the drama associated with the game. On the other hand, if you’re golf-agnostic, the experience might be tantamount to watching paint dry, minus the mind-bending effects of inhaling a can of Sherwin-Williams.
I consider myself a fairly dedicated golf nerd, if that means watching down-market tournaments on Thursday and even the odd Korn Ferry event. And I must confess that with some misgivings, I binged Full Swing in two days and felt only vaguely guilty that I’d wasted precious hours that could have been better utilized working on my nonexistent short game.
Additionally, we all run the risk that Bob Dylan faced when he met his ailing hero, Woody Guthrie, and later declared that it marked the end of idolatry for him. Sometimes a telescope is better than a microscope when you want to preserve your illusions about the subject at hand, whether it’s a firebrand folk singer or a spoiled country club brat complaining about how hard it is to win a golf tournament. Can I hear a collective “Awwwww”?
I felt that way watching the episode featuring the ever-frowning Brooks Koepka, whose early promise and four majors portended a long career in the winner’s circle, only to see him go down in also-ran flames, and finally join the roster of craven, cash-seeking missiles and align with the Saudi-funded LIV Tour. Seeing him in his high-ceilinged tax-haven mansion in Jupiter, Florida — flanked by a bombshell beauty and swimming pool — it’s hard to feel either sympathy or interest.
On the other hand, an up-close-and-personal look at Tony Finau had me reaching for the Kleenex here and there. What are the odds that a man of his humble background — who learned the game in the family garage pounding balls into a mattress — would emerge as the most likable PGA professional since Lee Trevino? Both share working-class roots and wear perpetual smiles, but Finau’s devotion to his wife and kids is the kicker: Who doesn’t love a guy whose heart overflows with fealty and gratitude to his significant others?
Other highlights include the trials and tribulations of easygoing cancer survivor Joel Dahmen, whose lack of bling and self confidence contrasts nicely with LIV-defector Ian Poulter’s technicolor wardrobe and supercilious wit. Though I must say, it was amusing to hear Pat Perez and Poulter gossiping about Instagram leaderboards like a couple of Kardashians. Somewhere Snead and Hogan are shaking their gray heads gravely.
One last quibble: While the series is expensive-looking and capably produced, the soundtrack is rife with the booming bass drums and whiny synthesizers common to the Sahara Tent at Coachella. Let’s keep it real, shall we? Golf is about as un-turnt up as the sports world gets — no gats or gold chains, nor much twerking to speak of. To say it made me long for the days of Yanni and John Tesh would be a stretch, but come on folks, did you really think that it would turn Skrillex and Lil Wayne fans into golfers? Get a Vardon grip, folks!